Chang’e, China’s lunar exploration program, announced its next mission: Chang’e 5. They will moon land a probe on an area never reached before: the northwestern part of the Oceanus Procellarum. It is a vast lunar mare, the only one of the lunar maria to be called an ocean, due to its size, as it stretches more than 2,500 km.
The event will take place at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province, during the fourth quarter of this year. A Long March 5, the biggest and strongest in the nation’s rocket fleet carrier rocket, will be launched atop.
The probe is expected to bring back to Earth at least 1 kilogram of samples. The samples will bring answers about the moon’s physical composition, geological traits, and shallow structures. This will significantly help with the understanding of the moon’s evolution.
More about Chang’e 5, the future Chinese mission to the Moon
The 8.2-metric-tonne probe has four components: an orbiter, lander, ascender, and re-entry module. After the probe reaches the lunar orbit, the elements will separate into two parts: the orbiter and re-entry module will remain in orbit. At the same time, the lander and ascender head toward the moon’s surface to gather the samples. Then the ascender will go back to the lunar orbit to dock with the re-entry module, which will carry them back to Earth.
It the operation will succeed China will become the third nation to bring lunar samples back to Earth. The United States and Russia have done it before, but sample-return missions also didn’t happen in more than four decades.
Also, Chang’e intents to set up a simple scientific outpost on the moon. Two or three missions would be made to accommodate astronauts for short-term stays, to carry out experiments, and explore the feasibility of long-term visits. The new human-crewed spaceship’s prototype will make its debut flight during the first mission of the Long March 5B rocket this year at the Wenchang center.